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Details for Physical Therapist Assistants


Assist physical therapists in providing physical therapy treatments and procedures. May, in accordance with State laws, assist in the development of treatment plans, carry out routine functions, document the progress of treatment, and modify specific treatments in accordance with patient status and within the scope of treatment plans established by a physical therapist. Generally requires formal training.


  • Instruct, motivate, safeguard and assist patients as they practice exercises and functional activities.
  • Confer with physical therapy staff or others to discuss and evaluate patient information for planning, modifying, and coordinating treatment.
  • Administer active and passive manual therapeutic exercises, therapeutic massage, and heat, light, sound, water, and electrical modality treatments, such as ultrasound.
  • Observe patients during treatments to compile and evaluate data on patients' responses and progress, and report to physical therapist.
  • Measure patients' range-of-joint motion, body parts, and vital signs to determine effects of treatments or for patient evaluations.
  • Secure patients into or onto therapy equipment.
  • Fit patients for orthopedic braces, prostheses, and supportive devices, such as crutches.
  • Train patients in the use of orthopedic braces, prostheses, or supportive devices.
  • Transport patients to and from treatment areas, lifting and transferring them according to positioning requirements.
  • Monitor operation of equipment and record use of equipment and administration of treatment.
  • Clean work area and check and store equipment after treatment.
  • Assist patients to dress, undress, or put on and remove supportive devices, such as braces, splints, and slings.
  • Administer traction to relieve neck and back pain, using intermittent and static traction equipment.
  • Perform clerical duties, such as taking inventory, ordering supplies, answering telephone, taking messages, and filling out forms.
  • Prepare treatment areas and electrotherapy equipment for use by physiotherapists.
  • Perform postural drainage, percussions and vibrations, and teach deep breathing exercises to treat respiratory conditions.


  • Realistic - Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.
  • Investigative - Investigative occupations frequently involve working with ideas, and require an extensive amount of thinking. These occupations can involve searching for facts and figuring out problems mentally.
  • Social - Social occupations frequently involve working with, communicating with, and teaching people. These occupations often involve helping or providing service to others.

Education, Training, Experience

  • Education - Most occupations in this zone require training in vocational schools, related on-the-job experience, or an associate's degree.
  • Training - Employees in these occupations usually need one or two years of training involving both on-the-job experience and informal training with experienced workers. A recognized apprenticeship program may be associated with these occupations.
  • Experience - Previous work-related skill, knowledge, or experience is required for these occupations. For example, an electrician must have completed three or four years of apprenticeship or several years of vocational training, and often must have passed a licensing exam, in order to perform the job.


  • Therapy and Counseling - Knowledge of principles, methods, and procedures for diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of physical and mental dysfunctions, and for career counseling and guidance.
  • Medicine and Dentistry - Knowledge of the information and techniques needed to diagnose and treat human injuries, diseases, and deformities. This includes symptoms, treatment alternatives, drug properties and interactions, and preventive health-care measures.
  • English Language - Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
  • Education and Training - Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.
  • Customer and Personal Service - Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
  • Psychology - Knowledge of human behavior and performance; individual differences in ability, personality, and interests; learning and motivation; psychological research methods; and the assessment and treatment of behavioral and affective disorders.


  • Reading Comprehension - Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.
  • Active Listening - Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
  • Speaking - Talking to others to convey information effectively.
  • Critical Thinking - Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
  • Monitoring - Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
  • Social Perceptiveness - Being aware of others' reactions and understanding why they react as they do.
  • Service Orientation - Actively looking for ways to help people.

Related Careers

  • Athletic Trainers
  • Child, Family, and School Social Workers
  • Physical Therapists
  • Recreational Therapists
  • Social and Human Service Assistants
Wages for this career
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